Special prosecutor, not Beckett, will handle case against Nye County detective
By HENRY BREAN
June 21, 2010
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL PAHRUMP — Noting what he called a “clear-cut conflict of interest,” a judge on Monday disqualified Nye County District Attorney Bob Beckett from pursuing criminal charges against the sheriff’s detective who arrested him last month.
Senior Judge Robert Estes said he would appoint an outside prosecutor to handle the charges against Detective David Boruchowitz, whom Beckett has accused of abusing his authority and targeting political candidates for harassment.
The same special prosecutor also will decide whether to formally charge Beckett with embezzlement and the other crimes for which he was booked on May 5, the judge said.
“This is so clear-cut it’s not really necessary to dwell on it much,” said Estes, who was called in to settle the matter after Nye County’s two district judges recused themselves because of potential conflicts of interest.
The ruling came at the end of a 90-minute hearing that saw Beckett take the witness stand and his attorney, Leslie Stovall, lodge objection after objection.
Afterward, Beckett said the judge’s decision came as no surprise. “I think he did the fair thing.”
Dogged by negative publicity, the longtime district attorney lost his bid for a fifth four-year term during the June 8 primary, when he finished last out of five Republican candidates.
Beckett said he was “disappointed” by the election results, “but that’s politics.”
He believes the widening legal mess surrounding him probably played “a huge role” in his defeat, but said he is “not angry at anybody” about that.
“I’ve enjoyed my time in Nye County,” said Beckett, who will leave office in early January. “The voters did what they thought was right.”
Beckett’s arrest and the charges he quickly brought against Boruchowitz touched off a nasty public fight between the county’s top prosecutor and its chief law enforcement officer, Sheriff Tony DeMeo.
Now their squabble is threatening to stall or derail dozens of criminal cases in the rural county west of Las Vegas.
Citing public statements Beckett has made accusing Boruchowitz of perjury, attorney Harry Kuehn and his fellow public defenders have filed eight challenges so far in pending cases the detective helped investigate.
Estes granted a delay in one of those cases on Monday, after Kuehn argued that his client, on trial for murder, “cannot possibly be fairly prosecuted by parties including a (possibly) proven liar, a suspected liar and two accused felons.”
The attorney said his case might need an outside prosecutor, too.
“If any place should have extra scrutiny, it’s Nye County,” Kuehn told the judge. “As I’ve said to the press, we’re the laughingstock of the known universe.”
Estes stopped short of approving a second special prosecutor, but he echoed some of Kuehn’s criticism of the county.
“From what I’ve seen,” he said, “everyone down here talks to the newspapers more than they ought to instead of doing what they should.”
The judge went on to note the complex and apparently unique nature of the situation, which Nevada legal scholars and historians have called the first arrest of a sitting district attorney in state history.
“This has been kind of a strange day,” Estes said. “There have been issues today I’ve never even read about.”
After the hearing, Kuehn estimated that as many as 100 pending criminal cases could be affected by Beckett’s comments about one of the sheriff’s most active detectives.
“Unless a case doesn’t have Boruchowitz involved, everything is going to get stalled,” he said.
Beckett has denied the accusations against him, which involve a bank account his office set up more than a decade ago for restitution payments from people convicted for writing bad checks.
Boruchowitz, likewise, has denied any wrongdoing and remains on active duty. He sat in the audience during Monday’s hearings, often with a small smile on his face.
Estes did not say when he would name the special prosecutor, but an announcement could come in a matter of days.
The judge said the prosecutor will have the authority to hire his own investigators and clerical staff.
“It’s a pity in these times, but Nye County is going to have to foot the bill for this,” Estes said.